The Blue Devils need to stop their spiral immediately if they want to have any hope of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in women's basketball this season.
Coming off of a disappointing home loss to Wake Forest, Duke will travel into the lion’s den to take on No. 7 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky., Sunday at 2 p.m. The Blue Devils will be looking to dramatically flip the script on their season, as they are currently on a three-game losing streak.
“Obviously, Louisville is a great team, but getting that next opportunity to play right away, and again, getting into the moment, [we can loosen] up a little bit," Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "[We're looking forward to] really working together and just having fun playing on the road and see if you can steal one away.”
The script could not be more different thus far for both teams. The Cardinals have dominated this entire season, firing on all cylinders. Adding a cherry on top is a win against No. 2 Oregon earlier this year. They are led by junior guard Dana Evans, who averages 19.1 points per game, but that does not tell the true story. Louisville is a team in every sense of the word, as it plays together and relies on the collective effort of every single player in order for it to be successful.
Meanwhile, Duke has had to fight for everything it has gotten this year. With surprising losses to Northwestern and Nebraska, the Blue Devils found themselves backed into the corner early on. Thanks to the efforts of Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom, Duke (7-6, 1-1 in the ACC) has been able to claw its way to a game above .500 and still has a chance to turn its season around.
It's been nearly a month since the Blue Devils won a contest, and Duke desperately needs someone to step up and change the tide before its season starts to head down a dark path.
“We get leadership from a variety of places. It is a little bit of everybody. We are in this together,” McCallie said. “We have got to sort through things, learn from it, move on to the next and understand that there are many games in front of us.”
The Blue Devils hope to see Odom healthy by Sunday, as she has been sidelined for the past two games with a pesky Achilles injury. In the event that she cannot play, Duke will turn to Miela Goodchild and Kyra Lambert to complement Gorecki.
Despite Louisville (13-1, 2-0) only having one loss, it has proven to be susceptible to 3-pointers. However, the Blue Devils are coming off of their coldest performance from beyond the arc, converting on only three of 24 attempts against the Demon Deacons. Gorecki and company must get back in their groove from earlier in the season for them to find success.
On the other end of the court, Duke is going to have to play hard-nosed defense for all 40 minutes. It will be a battle in the paint for the whole afternoon for positioning on the boards, and communication will be key in order to combat the Cardinals ball movement.
Sunday will mark a crucial matchup in both teams' seasons, as Duke tries to position itself back into ACC and NCAA tournament contention and Louisville tries to further cement itself as a national power.
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